Every second person waxes eloquent about the benefits of regularly practicing Yoga, but very few talk about the injuries associated with it. And that’s not because you cannot injure yourself while practicing Yoga, but because awareness about the same is rather low.

Yoga, like any other physical activity, must be practiced properly and under the right conditions. Otherwise, it is not very difficult to injure yourself in the process. With growing interest in Yoga, the number of injuries has shot up as well. The good news is that most of these injuries can easily be avoided. All we have to do is understand their nature.

The number one culprit behind most Yoga injuries is actually the mind. Trying to do too much too soon, ‘pushing’ yourself into a posture, competing with someone else, ignoring your body’s signals-- are all dangerous things to do. If you’re new to Yoga, or have generally been sedentary for a while, it’s best to ease into things.

When it comes to Yoga, the three most vulnerable areas of the body are the neck, the lower back, and the knees.

Any kind of forward bending exercise likeardha uttanasana, when done inexpertly, can injure the lower back. Don’t curve your spine as you bend forward. Instead try tilting from the pelvis, and keeping your back as flat as possible. At the same time, don’t lock your knees. Locking any joint creates unnecessary pressure and wear and tear on it. Another trigger for the knees is forcing yourself intopadmasana. Rotate from the hips and not from the knees and feet, while trying to sit in thisasana. If your hips are tight, pressing down on the knees will only hurt you.

The neck is a particularly weak spot when it comes to any posture that requires an inversion. Forasanaslikeshirshasanaor evenardha shirshasana, placing pressure incorrectly on the neck and shoulders can compress cervical vertebrae and lead to moderate to severe injuries.

Other problem areas are the hips when going into splits or lunges, the hamstrings while stretching the back and lower body, and the wrists if weight is improperly distributed on the hands. Those who spend most of their time sitting still-- in class, in office, or even while traveling-- are prone to tight and inflexible hamstrings and hips. To combat, stretch very slowly and gently, and never beyond what your body can take. If the stretch is becoming painful, then ease out of it.

There are a few simple rules to avoiding injuries in Yoga. Like any other sport, adequate warming up is very important. Along with that, ensure that you don’t hyperextend or lock joints, and focus on aligning your body correctly. To practice these, you need to be experienced, or have a great teacher. Therefore, be very careful about unsupervised Yoga-- especially if you’re a beginner.

At the end of the workout, don’t skipshavasana. Cooling down is just as important as warming up.

With just a few basic precautions, your Yoga worries will become a thing of the past.

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